Car vs Planes of the Future

January 10, 2013 by Bruce Landsberg

seatbeltThe automotive world is poised to make another jump into the future and perhaps help GA in ways unforeseen. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the launching place of nouveau gadgets—many of which we could live without and some you wish you’d have thought of.

Today’s cars are generally better than vehicles of yore. Yes, the old hoopty was simple and you could tune it yourself, but its fuel economy wasn’t great. Many rattled and leaked after just two years of ownership. Doors didn’t always close well. Air conditioning was a luxury that worked sometimes in the winter. Sound familiar?

Production line efficiencies and GA are an oxymoron, but in reading about some of the safety improvements being contemplated for cars, I wonder if some of these features could be put into aircraft. (Don’t worry—my medication should begin working shortly.)

There is some rethinking being done about the driver-less vehicle versus merely creating a much safer vehicle.

Anti-lock brakes didn’t quite live up to their billing, not because they didn’t work, but because some drivers just tightened up their following distances thinking that the system would save them (watching too much NASCAR perhaps). Parachutes on new aircraft don’t always save us from ourselves, either, where pilot judgment is still required. I like technology, especially if it’s passive—i.e., the pilot doesn’t need to do anything—it just works.

A good co-pilot can be valuable in tactfully bringing something to the pilot’s attention. Gear up landings, with today’s WAAS technology, really should be a thing of the past. With our ability to pinpoint our location in three dimensions, it becomes fairly simple. Have the synthetic voice in conjunction with GPS ask the pilot, when half a mile from the runway and below 500 feet, if he really intends to land gear up? If the gear doesn’t come down shortly, there’s a speed dial option for the insurance company.

TAWS and collision avoidance are already helping to keep us from testing Newton’s law of two objects being in the same place at the same time. They are passive and quite effective—as much as we’re able to measure.  You can probably think of other safety devices you’d like to see.

The safer GA becomes, the stronger it become as an industry. The AOPA Foundation is committed to creating as safe a flying environment as possible through the free online education from the Air Safety Institute. A donation to the Foundation helps make these courses and materials available to all pilots. Consider joining the effort today.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Bruce Landsberg

    A sharp eyed friend pointed out that it wasn’t Newton but actually Austrian Physicist Wolfgang Pauli who made this observation in in 1925 – some centuries after Sir Isaac.

    It seemed like something Newton would have said if Pauli hadn’t said it after him. Newton knew that and being so famous already, decided not to hog all the glory. How’s that for revisionist history? Sorry for the misdirection but the principle stands!